On Second Thought, Hell No

And On Third Thought...

So. Yeah...turns out that was nicely anticlimactic, in the end. 

The best thing about about this whole...uh, thing (besides working itself out fairly quickly) was the fact that it rallied our mostly-dormant parent email distro list like nothing else in the world. What had previously only been used to send out links to special-needs talks and events and charity 5Ks suddenly came alive with the sound of HIGHLY ALARMED MOTHER BEARS.

Everyone quickly passed along whatever bits of conflicting or corroborating information we'd received from the school, the teacher, the administration. We compared notes and conspiracy theories and even a horror story or two. (It was a dark and stormy Tuesday after the first day of school when one child spent 40 goddamn minutes wandering around the school completely lost because neither his homeroom teacher nor special education teacher realized he was missing, holy shit, the end.) By late last night, we were virtually toasting each other's wine glasses over email and firming up final details on a class playdate next week and a mom's night out the week after. It was beautiful.

It was also interesting to see the different advocacy styles: Some go in with guns blazing. They argue, they hang up the phone, they say things like "if I find out you've pulled my child out of general education for even five minutes because of overcrowding, I will file a discrimination lawsuit." Others are more measured and willing to give the school the benefit of the doubt...but not too much benefit, because...you know. Some see conspiracies everywhere, or can always find a reason to be angry, while others have to get dragged kicking and screaming from their confrontation-adverse corners, and fight only when they absolutely have to. Some get amped up by the process, injected with nervous energy that keeps them up and emailing until midnight, while others get so emotionally wiped out by an afternoon IEP meeting that they have to go home and crawl back into bed for a few hours before they talk about it. 

I'm sure for teachers and therapists and administrators it gets AWFULLY exhausting dealing with some of these personality types, and easy to point at a particular reaction and say YOU'RE GOING ABOUT THIS THE WRONG WAY, STOP. The thing is, though, that every one of these parents got to where they are -- to this X-Files-like point of TRUST NO ONE -- honestly. Usually the hard way. From the time they didn't fight back or argue or ask that one last pointed question because they didn't want to seem mean or be a bother. Or the time they DID fight and argue and question...and still were unable to get what their child needed. It doesn't make us right all the time, but just another imperfect part of an imperfect system. 

Personally, I spent the bulk of my afternoon composing a (hopefully) polite yet undeniably pointed email to the involved parties. (Probably shouldn't come as a surprise that writing tends to be my best medium for confrontation, rather than the phone or in person.) I tossed around the proper acronyms and dissected my son's day, calling his service minutes into question while also attempting to appeal on a personal level, describing Noah's level of stress and anxiety about school in general and c'mon, dudes. Don't be dicks about this. LRE, man. LRE.

Within 15 minutes of the dismissal bell ringing at school, my phone was ringing and my email was replied to, with a good three or four other higher-ups from the school now CC'd on it. 

Basically, what we all had here was a failure to communicate. Basically, this kerfluffle is what happens when a principal (who is actually an assistant principal filling in temporarily while the "real" principal is on maternity leave) makes a phone call that probably should have been made by the teacher, and with a lot more notice or lead time to prevent parents from feeling railroaded, or like someone was trying to pull a fast one on us. 

Upshot: I thought Noah spent more time in his homeroom than he actually does, thanks to a misunderstanding at our last IEP meeting, some bungled information we received at Back To School Night and from...yeah, okay, I know...Noah himself, the most unreliable of narrators. He actually gets off the bus, goes to the gen-ed classroom, hangs up his coat and backpack, sits down to listen to about five minutes of all-school announcements via the Promethean Board...and then is immediately told to get his coat and backpack again, line up at the door, and head to his other classroom. 



Would it be okay if he listened to the announcements in the other classroom instead, so he's not having to transition 10 minutes into the school day? Because the kids are so tightly scheduled down to the minute this year -- all because of statewide changes to the curriculum, which is why this is a new problem -- and the special ed teacher isn't able to get the new, longer math lesson in. So it would really help her if she could have the kids there from the beginning. Then they aren't running late to rejoin the gen-ed class for art and music and science, which is what's currently happening almost every day. The 10 additional minutes a day would not actually eat into his IEP-dictated gen-ed time, but would instead make sure he WASN'T missing more valuable peer interaction later in the day.


I see.

I have to admit, there was a part of me -- a small, petty part -- that wanted to stick to my original guns. To cling to Noah's five minutes of homeroom time no matter what. MY PRESHUS! HISSSSSS! To insist that those five minutes provide invaluable peer interaction that they will take from my COLD DEAD HANDS, just to stick it to them for handling this so badly and not explaining things well. To continue to nurture my pet theory that this was still some kind of fallout from the overcrowded kindergarten rooms. 

But I had to admit that his teacher really had a point. Moving Noah around that much in the morning is kind of silly, and probably feels like transition-whiplash to him. For kids without transitioning difficulties, it's SUCH a nice idea to have everyone arrive on equal gen-ed footing before scattering out to special ed and ESOL and the resource room. I mean, I love the sound of that, because it's just so...up with integration! everybody is different and special but also the same! and stuff.

But for a kid like Noah, well, the reality is that it probably makes things harder for him. 

Some of the other parents have decided to reject the schedule change and keep things as-is, and of course the school is bending over backwards to agree that yes! That is completely within your rights! We will of course honor your wishes! Our bad!

I asked Noah what he wanted. I assumed he'd pick the original homeroom option, since he likes that teacher a lot more. (Mostly just because he only sees that teacher for the fun, easier parts of the day.) 

No, he said. He wants to start off in the smaller classroom. He doesn't like lining up to leave all the time, and he always forgets which room he's left his jacket in and then Mommy gets annoyed with him when he gets off the bus with no jacket. It was just too much moving around all the time.



I see.

As you wish, Noah. As you wish.


(Photo by Wendy at Blue Lily Photography, and HELL YES SQUEE I have dozens more to inflict on you guys, now that I'm done talking about the latest crisis of my own fool creation.)



I'm so glad you didn't have to beat anyone up. I would have missed all the squee pictures of the kiddos if you had landed in jail. (Which... yeah. I'm one of the ones who encouraged the beatdown, so JUST IGNORE ME.)


Wow, sounds like what the school really needs to work on is how to communicate with parents!

Good job looking out for Noah, for getting input from him, and for acting on that input.


As another mama bear of a classified cub, I think you handled this very well. Glad it was all okay but I have found that a healthy suspicion is a reasonable default in these situations.

I just emailed school asking when my kid's speech/social group would be starting (hello, it's late October). Guess what? He's been attending it and never told me. Thanks for the tip, sonny.


That is a gorgeous picture! I'm glad everything is getting settled. Do they still have the math-time problem since some parents want their kid to continue to go to homeroom first?


Oh. well. okay then. Here's your earrings back, and I'll go put away the Vaseline too.


Ah, well, good. It's to annoying and wastes so much time when people don't communicate all the information.


OMG, this was so me. I think I love you. We even have the same name - are you sure we're not the same person? Love how you handle things (because it is just like me!!!). So glad it turned out well.

Plano Mom

Emily Litella comes to mind here - "Nevermind."

Cath @ 7 Million Wonders

I love that you asked Noah what he wanted. We always can't trust kids to know what's best for themselves, but here, it sounds like he really did. Good for you.


yeah, sure, all that, but ...
He's so stinkin' handsome. How do you stand it?

Also, way to go for helping him take another step of greater ownership in his education! Rock on! A+100 in parenting for you! (I'm a teacher. I think you did well by your kid there. :D )


Yes, the special education teacher could have called the parents or emailed and explained her needs and their best idea for fixing it.

You are still 100% in the right to inquire further while explaining his legal rights to a fair and appropriate education.

That being said, D recently told me that he wasn't getting to go to recess because of his behavior. I wrote his teacher asking, "WASSUP?" I cc'ed the SPED liaison, the OT and the principal and guess what? My 5 year old was LYING! So, there is no more head first fighting from me until I information gather. It happens because we are used to being crapped on. we just assume it is happening again when sometimes, it is ok.


Hooray for the good outcome! Sometimes we have the best of intentions in terms of where the kids will be when, and the integration and all, but it introduces some other issue (albeit a minor one) that we didn't anticipate. I was all for Hoss being in the special cross-subject curriculum extension unit to stimulate his big ol' brain until I realized that it was causing all sorts of angst for him to have to come back to his portable comprehensive classroom after lunch with his class then immediately have to turn around and come back to the main building (to a point almost as far away from the portables as possible) for an hour or so, then back to him portable for the end of day activities, then back to the main building for the afterschool daycare program. Not a great choice for a kid with transitional and attention/organization issues.


Amy, you did what you needed to do. I wanted to write to you yesterday...I'm a veteran in this, my daughter is now 26. You could only imagine what we went through, as she has ADD. After trying to work with her teacher, and the school I decided I had enough. I went right over their heads and straight to the board of Ed. It gets really hard in middle school. My daughter was being treated with disrespect, and was in violation with her IEP...I had enough of that, and went right to the State of TN. By the next morning when I got home from taking her to school I had voice mails from board of Ed, principal and her teacher. I still was pissed off and told her Dr., he sent a letter to put in her file as well. fight on.... After the board of Ed got involved, they followed her IEP...Finally they did their job


Or... If you still want a conspiracy theory, the school's plan worked. There is now an active Special Needs Parent Group. Whom will be contacted for volunteer opportunities soon. ;)


I loved reading this. The surprising news. The flare-up! The discussion! TO ARMS!! The explanation. And then the process I recognize so well when you describe it, where the adrenaline is still there and the arms are still at the ready---and now actually, oh, nothing to do with either of those things. And the letting go of them but kind of wanting to keep them. That's JUST how it is.


Well played with the Princess Bride references...

So glad this worked out well for all involved... or... at least you and Noah, right? I took your same calm, cool and collected approach to UPS and ConEd yesterday (paperwork and all) with similarly pleasing results.

Yay for winning!


As a future special educator who used to work in a moderate/severe disability class, I applaud your calm, rational communication and understanding. Hope all goes well for Noah in his new arrangement.


That Mama Bear feeling scares the hell out of me - 2/3 "don't you mess with my baby!" and 1/3 "good god, am I in charge of this human being? I better get my shit together." The whole time it's happening my heart is in my throat but afterwards I'm just glad that I'm around to protect my babies b/c what if I wasn't - who would protect them? Then I get all teary-eyed. Actually, just reading your experience made me freak out on Noah's behalf b/c he is Noah and I've been reading your blog long enough that...well, he's Noah, and nobody messes with him, OK?

Anyway, thanks for making me a wreck too... glad it all worked out.

bethany actually

Princess Bride reference AND continuity, FTW! I'm so glad it turned out to be a tempest in a teacup, and hooray for playgroups and moms' nights being planned!


I miss that Peter Falk.

I'm glad everything worked out.


I honestly love reading about Noah and your experiences. You write so eloquently and have such a gift with words--plus, there really isn't a whole lot out there as far as blogs go with people who deal with this. My son is older, (4th grade) and is just now being tested at his school for learning disabilities. Up to this point he's been pushed through. He was diagnosed with ADHD in 2nd grade--not the hyper kind, the unfocused kind. We did do medication which doesn't seem to be helping much. Stupid me though---seeing how much my son is struggling I pretty much trusted that the teachers would initiate testing if they thought he needed it. Sadly, it took my husband and I to initiate the request for testing--so we went in guns blazing and they all agreed that of course he should be tested. Great! Thanks a hell of a lot for not doing SHIT until we came in a demanded it. GRRRR. We find out the results of this magical testing next week--basically find out if he qualifies for special ed services through the school. And if he doesn't--at the very least hopefully we can be enlightened as to how to help a kid who is struggling--below grade level in most academic areas. It is sooooo frustrating!!! But it helps when you and others who are in the club shed some light for those of us just getting started. So thank you!!!


What a cute picture!


So glad things worked out and holy hell does he look JUST like your husband in that picture.


Good for you, and for Noah. I'm glad that even though maybe it was a little stressful there, everyone was asking questions--I think that's great.

I pulled my kids out of a Maryland public school, and this is our second year homeschooling. When my kids were in school things were so very rushed all the time, and I wonder what it feels like now with the "statewide changes." I thought they were tightly scheduled BEFORE. That's a whole other issue, I suppose.

mark @ yelling near you

Nice to know that it all worked out. Will the school learn from the PR debacle? Probably not but the group has now solidified and is ready for the next one :).


You nailed the different dynamics of the parents perfectly.

I tend to be more laid back and give the school a chance to explain and I tend to trust that these people, who went into education, do have my son's best interests at heart. On the positive side, when I do raise a fuss, I get an immediate response, because they know I'm not doing it over nothing.

And I never consider my kid the primary source.


For what it's worth, this parental rush-to-arms, I-must-advocate-for-my-child thing happens with all parents regardless of if their children are mainstream or special needs or purple with one eye or whatever. Don't feel bad about assuming you need to jump in, because we all do from time to time. But we should all remember to jump in as you have--with a level head, respect for the educator, and the understanding that there are usually two sides to every story.


Yay for a second Princess Bride reference!! Good for you for letting go of the knee jerk stick it to em reaction. Not sure if I could have....


As a teacher, yeah, IEP meetings can be tiring. Accommodations can be tricky and frustrating, especially in classrooms like mine with no aide. However: I am HAPPY to help, happy to be part of the team working to educate some pretty awesome people. It might help that I'm a mom of three and one of my kids had his own IEP in school.

Differentiating instruction and helping kids learn is my job, but it's also my calling. Which sounds so precious and twee, put like that. But some days, when politicians are telling the media that I'm an entitled mooch and I have parents telling me that I'm lucky to get off work at three (Hah), it's just pure cussed stubbornness that gets me up the next morning and back in the classroom.

Well, that and my terrific students and their amazing parents.


Glad it's a teapot tempest, but still, the school created the crisis, not you. And your understanding of what they were going to do was basically accurate based on your previous post; it's just that once you had a chance to think it over and talk to Noah, it made sense. But you needed to have that chance and not just be asked to swallow a fait accompli.


The desire to say "as you wish Noah, as you wish" combined with the ability to keep every piece of paper and fight every battle, and topped with the wisdom to know which one to choose makes you Noah's ideal, fabulous mom. You truly, truly rock, even when you are setting the oven on fire. Nicely done!


"...others get so emotionally wiped out by an afternoon IEP meeting that they have to go home and crawl back into bed for a few hours before they talk about it..." Really? I'm not the only one? Thank you for that.


As a junior high speech therapist, it makes me very sad that so many parents have had experiences leading to mistrust. I have to attend a lot of IEP meetings (13 this week!) and definitely see the differences in style. I have the utmost respect for parents who want to make sure their child is being given all the tools he or she needs to succeed. I am happy to partner with parents as they are the expert on their own child. It's just hard sometimes--as a speech therapist who chooses to work in the public schools because I really believe in free services for every child who needs them and as a PERSON with FEELINGS when those both-guns-blazing parents come in and treat me with complete disrespect.

On the upside, they make me appreciate the polite, respectful parents like you all the more!


It's a good news that all the things get solved


No, maybe it was a false alarm (and I'm so glad of that), but it was not a crisis of your making. That's what happens when the professionals assume they can just make the decision without bothering to explain to anyone else. I'm glad the teacher was able and willing to explain but the (acting or not) principal should have done so in the first place. Do NOT beat yourself up over this one. You did the right thing.


I am sorry about your discomfort day, however you are very lucky to have such a handsome angel. MiniHipster.com


holy cow, he's good looking. and i don't think you handled it wrong at all. next time they'll communicate it the right way, that's all.


I'm glad you are on top of things, the principal handled that so badly! Sorry! It's good Noah gets the gen ed science and music time still.


Kudos. Everybody learned something. No kids got ruined. It's awesome. :)


I just found your blog a few weeks ago and I just have to say that I am so happy I found it. I have a son Noah's age who we are in the process of getting evaluated (a REAL evaluation by a neuro-psychologist, there have been many others prior but I feel like this one is going to give us some real answers. I hope). We are in the same county as you (I swear I'm not a stalker) and it's so nice to read about your parenting experiences that are so similar to my own.

This part of your post... "From the time they didn't fight back or argue or ask that one last pointed question because they didn't want to seem mean or be a bother. Or the time they DID fight and argue and question...and still were unable to get what their child needed."...pretty much brought me to tears because I constantly feel that I have made mistakes in how we've dealt with my sons issues and this just summed it up and made me feel so much better that most of us in this situation feel the same.

So anyway, that was an extremely long-winded way of saying thanks!


LOVE that Noah ended up saying THAT at the end. Of course, it always ends up being that the kids are way smarter than we give them credit for and we shoulda just asked them in the first place. What are we THINKING trying to be ADULTS here???!!!! Argh!


Good for you for getting your drawers in a wad! It makes me nuts when parents stand by and let educators, or whomever else really, make decisions for their kids on their behalf. Too often we see parents standing idly by because they don't want to rock the boat. We have to advocate for what's best for our children, because they cannot.

Even if it ended up being a misunderstanding, you were right for getting worked up about it!

Kudos to you!


I can relate to Lisa, the speech therapist above. I'm a regular ed teacher, and even though I absolutely acknowledge the need to protect our children and make sure their needs are being served, the both-guns-blazing parents (I don't consider you to be one of them, Amy) can make make me feel like my efforts to serve their children against difficult odds (budgets, complex circumstances) are totally worthless to them. I have to work hard not to take it personally and keep my spirits up. I feel like I'm viewed as the enemy, when I gave up a career teaching at the college level (with a PhD) to teach high school math to kids who struggle. I don't regret it, but it is a thousand times harder to teach in a public high school (even in a wealthy district) than it was to teach at an ivy league college.

Schools are complex places with many parts that need to work together. That's not to say that there aren't situations where immoral school personnel don't have the best interests of kids at heart, or where people try to cut corners, or where school personnel view parents as the enemy. All of that is wrong. But I hate gratuitous hatred of schools. I hate to be assumed to be the enemy, or incompetent. It hurts. Until you've tried to do the job we're asked to do with the constraints we're given, please do not criticize or belittle thoughtlessly (again, Amy, this is NOT you).

It's not even the both-guns-blazing-in-support-of-you-this-situation that I mind. It's the both-guns-blazing-because-schools-suck-and-are-evil mindset that I mind.

I would like to see both-guns-blazing parents fight FOR teachers (resources, reasonable expectations, working conditions, respect) as much as they tend to fight AGAINST them. Work to understand the complex system that is your child's school. Realize that we are governed by federal laws and state laws that require things to happen without necessarily funding them. Realize that well-intentioned legislation may be at cross-purposes with local realities (not always). Realize that school board presidents are ELECTED and sometimes make decisions with the intent to get re-elected rather than because they are the best decisions for children. All of these things can make running a school well and smoothly an even more difficult task than it naturally is. Public education is a complicated, complex situation, and we need every parent's help to make it function as well as we possibly can.


BTW, I loved your update today, Amy. Beautifully told! I'm sorry for my diatribe up there. I hope it was an ok comment to post.

The comments to this entry are closed.